Web 2.0 and Emerging Learning Technologies/Online Learning Communities
Part IV: Environments and Tools: Online Learning CommunitiesEdit
This section of Web 2.0 will discuss Online learning communities and collaborative learning within those online learning communities. Hiltz (1997) defines collaborative learning as a learning process that emphasizes groups of cooperative efforts among faculty and students. As we look further into collaborative learning within the context of online learning communities. Using online platforms to facilitate discussion and collaboration among students is not a new idea, but tools techniques and research is continuing to evolve in this area. Many instructors have been using tools such as wikis, blogs, Google Docs, and forums to facilitate discussions between students and promote collaboration outside of class hours and assignments. Web 2.0 moves students from being consumers of websites and educational content to being active participants, creators, and contributors in the online educational community. By using platforms that allow for creation, tagging, sharing,and remixing of content students and student groups are invited to become active participants and move towards the mind set of “we participate, therefore we are.”
Categories of Online Learning CommunitiesEdit
On January 16, 2001 Wikipedia started a new era of discovering information and resources pertaining to any interest or inquiry. This new form of information seeking and knowledge building created a wave of web-based forms of learning. Years later, web-based forms of learning are among the most popular and well utilized tools in information discovery (Bonk, 2016). Wikipedia defines online learning communities as groups that interact and connect solely through some means of mobile technology and blended learning communities as groups that utilize face-to-face meetings as well as online meetings to engage in educational interactions. There are a vast range of different types of learning that can occur when engaging in online learning communities. Specifically, we are focusing on online communities that support informal web-based collaborative learning.
Informal Online learningEdit
Referring to research surrounding Informal and Self-Directed Online Learning Environments an analysis of 305 informal learning websites was conducted by the “Self-Directed Online Learning Environments (SOLE) Research Team” at Indiana University (IU) (Kim et al., 2014). From this analysis we chose the following the characteristics to define categories of informal online learning (Bonk, 2016). Please note that many informal online learning communities will fall in more than one category.
- Language learning
Technological supported language learning resources that integrate sound, voice interaction, text, video, and animation. This category supports real-time interactive learning without being restricted by a physical place and time.
- Outdoor and adventure learning
Outdoor and adventure learning are hybrids of online educational environments where students have opportunities to explore real-world concepts, issues, and topics through an authentic learning experiences within online collaborative learning structures. Often including inquiry-based learning including teamwork, authentic data analysis, and project-based learning to support engagement and interaction.
- Social change/global
Social change/global resources are communities that aim to educate and inform people about issues and needs. This often creates innovative ways to spread social good and access to learning worldwide. It is also used to empower and inspire people involved in the community.
- Virtual education
Virtual education refers to online learning environments where teachers and students are not necessarily within the same space or time. The content is provided through course management applications as well as various multimedia and Web 2.0 tools. Virtual education may be managed by organizations and institutions that have been created through alliances and partnerships to facilitate teaching and learning. Many virtual education websites provide tools for both the learner and educator.
- Learning portals
Learning portals are allocated learning centers that contain educational information on a topic that supports the user and context learning. Information can be obtained based on interest, time, and space of the individual. This information is often current or continually updated.
- Shared online video
Shared online video includes any educational video (uploaded content and live streaming) that can be watched or shared. Some content is provided in professional contexts while other can be simply home-made. These sites often allow for interaction via comments and messaging. Additionally, videos can allow for downloading of content.
Examples of Emerging Online CommunitiesEdit
Discussions are an important pedagogical tool in today’s online coursework. The benefits for discussions range from promoting critical-thinking and reflection to being useful for engaging all students in course content in a different way. Online discussions that are solely text based are not effective for all students. This type of online discussion often lacks the personal connection that is present when in a classroom based discussion. One tool developed to build online learning communities that is becoming increasingly popular is Flipgrid. When integrating Flipgrid into discussion, students can have online discussions using the short video format which promotes the feeling of in person interaction through online discourse.
Flipgrid is a free platform for educators designed for students and teachers to engage in recorder conversations which include video and audio. Flipgrid is a web-based application that includes an app for mobile use as well. There are two important terms to remember when talking about Flipgrid, the “Grid” and the “Topic.” The grid is where an educator can create their course and holds the discussions for that course. Topics are nested inside the grid and they are the grouped discussions, often separated by questions or topic areas. Within the topics student responses are threaded.
Creating Grids and Topics
When educators are moving to implement Flipgrid into the education experience, they create a free account, and then add a grid using the ‘Add New Grid’ button. With each grid the educator can name the grid and then choose the type of grid they are creating, which is really asking about how people will be able to access the grid they are creating. Then educators will be able to select the flip code hyperlink to share with students so they can join the newly created grid. Two additional methods are available for students to join the grid, QR code and an embed code for adding to a website.
After the creation of the grid the next step is the topic. One feature included in creating topics that is advantageous to educators is the ability to create many topics ahead of time, and having a separate function to share those topics with students. Topics are always titled and can have a text prompt or question added. The option focus feature allows educators to add media resources from many embedded tools including: YouTube Vimeo, Nearpod, Wonderopolis, Giphy, Newslea, Wakelet, and more. When creating a topic there are extended features that can help educators gain feedback on student responses, as well as indicate how students can interact and respond to a topic.
Ideas for Engagement
As Flipgrid continues to grow, their team continues to add new features that engage students and foster the learning community. Some of these ideas are discussed below:
- Class discussions. This is the most commonly used way educators engage with students. This allows students to share their ideas when they are ready to, thereby giving some students more time to reflect, which boosts overall engagement.
- Exhibitions of Student presentations. With Flipgrid educators can select the time allowed for student videos up to 10 minutes. This is ideal for presentations that would normally take up class time. A feature that assists with presentations is the Video Moderation, where the educator can review all submissions before they are available for other students to view.
- Parent Teacher Conferences. Flipgrid can be used to continue to share learning after the end of the parent teacher conference day. Educators can create a grid or topic for parents to ask questions, or share ideas. This helps to include parents into the classroom community and shows them they are an integral part of their child's education.
- Reflections and Project Overviews. This can build on student presentations, educators can ask learners to reflect and summarize presentations or class projects, offering feedback and ideas for future presentations/projects.
- Environment based learning. With the app for Android and IOS students can take the classroom with them and document hands on learning experiences in their community and environment.
Scratch is a free online web based program that allows users to learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is a platform where students can share interactive projects, learn important computational concepts, how to think creatively, reasoning systematically, and work collaboratively. Scratch is used in more than 150 different countries and available in more than 40 languages. Scratch is specifically designed for students ages 8 to 16, but is used by people of all ages. In Scratch students are able to learn at all levels, from elementary school to college as well as learn at levels across all disciplines, such as math, computer science, language arts and social studies.
Scratch is a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. The MIT Scratch Team and collaborators are researching how people use and learn with Scratch . Educators can request a Scratch Teacher Account, which makes it easier to create accounts for groups of students and to manage your students’ projects and comments.
Personalization: People learn best, and enjoy most, when working on personally meaningful projects. Scratch offers students the power of personalization. Scratch has been designed with features that allow users to personalize their projects by importing photos and music clips, recording voices, and creating graphics. The Scratch platform personalizes the development experience by making it easy for students to add personalized content and actively participate in the development process. Students are able to create projects that have personal meaning by adding their own pictures and their own voices.
Community: Millions of people create Scratch projects in a wide variety of settings, including homes, schools, museums, libraries, and community centers. Using block-based coding language users create interactive stories, games, and animations that students can share with others in class or in the online community. This online community allows real-time connections to share and collaborate with millions of users. A popular means of interaction is remixing each other's projects. Students have the capability to modify another student's projects, typically keeping some form of the original content. Remixing another student's work does not affect the original project but instead creates a web connecting the videos for all users to see. Students are also able to connect with other peers through comments on projects and messaging. Additionally, educators can share stories, exchange resources, ask questions, and find people on the ScratchEd website.
Prodigy is a free web-based, adaptive math game that integrates common-core math into a fantasy style interactive .game-based learning a step further. Prodigy provides teachers with a powerful reporting and assessment tools that allows easily identified trouble spots, dynamic instruction, and management of classroom supported activities. There are over 1200 crucial mathematical pedagogies and practices embedded in Prodigy. These practices are aligned with the Common Core State Standards for Grades 1- 8. Educators can inform their classrooms with 24/7 reporting. Everything students work on in Prodigy is reported back to the instructor in real-time Prodigy allows educators to address students' individual needs with a diagnostic test that places students in the appropriate grade, embedded with assessments, and automatic differentiation. Prodigy also ensures that students succeed at their own pace.
Prodigy supports collaborative learning by creating content that delivers instruction through small groups that empower students to work together to build their understanding of topics and concepts. Adapted from Marcus Guido(2017), here are five aspects of cooperative learning that drive Prodigy's success in collaborative learning :
- Positive Interdependence - Students should see that each group member’s efforts are important to both individual and team success.
- Promotive Interaction - Students should empower each other by offering help, praise, feedback and resources.
- Accountability - Each student must accept responsibility for fulfilling his or her role, helping the team reach its learning goals.
- Soft Skills Instruction - Interpersonal skills are needed to effectively work in groups. Instructors should give lessons and activities about teamwork.
- Group Processing - Groups strategize how to meet individual and group learning goals.
These aspects work slightly differently depending on which type of cooperative learning you use.
Tips for Facilitating Collaborative Learning Activities in Online Learning CommunitiesEdit
When introducing collaborative learning activities into online learning communities educators should think about how they can facilitate discussions that help students dig deeper. Collaborative learning stresses active participation and interaction on the part of both students and instructors (Hiltz, 1997). In Clark (2011) Online learning environments and communities are defined as distinct, pedagogically meaningful and comprehensive where learners and educators participate in the learning process whenever and wherever they please. When a group does not physically meet at a fixed location and interval this can make collaboration more difficult. The following methods that can be used to facilitate collaboration in Online Learning Communities below are adapted from Clark (2011):
- Policies for the Course- Where an educator plans ahead and has clear policies and procedures for interactions, it is easier for the students to understand what is expected of them both individually and as a group.
- Distinct Work-spaces- Each group should have different work-spaces that can be used for discussion and building their group projects, these group workspaces should be private to the group members and not available to other groups in the course.
- Debates- A controversial topic is stated and then students post their opinions, points, and theories trying to convince other students of their position. At the end of the debate a vote or poll can be taken.
- Role Playing- The educator can assign issues and students can work together as experts to collaborate and present solutions to the issue.
- Group-Created Stories- This method involves educators assigning groups an introductory paragraph, then the group members would each take a turn submitting the next paragraph to the story, until all have participated and they complete the story.
- Group Lists- This type of activity involves the instructor creating an issue and then defining the constructs where each student contributes something they think will help to solve the issue, and once all solutions and supports are listed, discussions on priority and value of solutions and supports take place. One example of this is an camping expedition, where each student can only carry a certain amount of supplies and they all need to work together to create a full supply list for a successful camping expedition.
- Structured Controversy- When employing a structured controversy the educator divides the group into two and groups are given a position to take. Then groups work together to research and present supporting information for their groups position. Next the groups switch positions and repeat the activity. After each group has presented both positions, a vote can take place to determine the class’ position based on the highest consensus.
Specific Examples of ActivitiesEdit
Informal Cooperative Learning StrategiesEdit
Informal cooperative learning strategies involve creating groups that work together to achieve a common and straightforward learning goal. This strategy can be between a few minutes to an entire class. Instructors should provide clear instruction and assign the completion of a product in forms as a written or spoken answer.
Here are two strategies to try:
Use the Jigsaw Method The jigsaw method encourages social interaction between different groups as well as the whole class, this is a very popular technique among many teachers. The method consists of dividing a task into subtasks for each individual as well as assigning one to each group member. Students then work in groups to play the role of experts by analyzing guided research, or holding discussions with students from other groups handling the task. They then return to their original groups to share new knowledge. This approach teaches students how important individual contributions are to meeting group goals.
Give a Pre- and Post-Task Test One of the best ways to gauge how well groups are doing is to give each student a test before and after working together. For example, students can complete a short quiz focusing on a specific learning goal. Then students should get into groups and engage in chosen methods of online learning, focusing on those skills and the overarching topic. After, give a similar quiz of equal difficulty. Hopefully, students should improve on testing scores. If not, consider spending more time with struggling base groups or rearranging groups altogether, giving insight as to what successful and unsuccessful teams are doing differently.
The Future of Online Learning CommunitiesEdit
Looking to the future of online learning communities, much is being done in the fields of Virtual Reality(VR), Augmented Reality(AR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI), that can support the collaborative experience of learning online. It is expected that artificial intelligence in U.S. education will grow by 47.5% from 2017-2021 according to the Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector report (Marr,2018). AI technology is still developing especially within the context of education, with the aim for AI to allow students and teachers to do more than ever before, including the following:
- Increase Personalization - By assisting teachers who are managing classrooms of 25+ to adjust learning based on individual student needs, identifying gaps and redirecting students to new topics. As we look toward the future it might even be possible for AI to read student expressions to pick up if the student is struggling to grasp a subject.
- Create Universal Access - Making adaptable and accessible classrooms and connections available to connect students globally, regardless of language barriers or hearing or visual impairment, or physical ability. AI can help break down siloed traditional schools and access.
- Automate Administrative Tasks- Moving beyond simply grading multiple choice test, the future of AI includes assessment of written responses and offering recommendations for closing gaps in learning. This integration can open up the teacher to spend more time with each student.
- Increase Support Outside the Classroom- Things like chatbots are already in place on some college campuses, this AI powered technology may soon be available to support all students with homework and test preparation and moving to the future they may even be able to respond to a range of unique learning styles.
Education is starting to adopt technology and tools now more than ever before. Looking to the future of online learning communities the limits are endless and collaboration is being fostered through ways in which education researchers of the past only imagined.
Online learning Communities offer affordances that have continued to transform the expectations of what learners learn and as well as how learners learn. Unfortunately, traditional classroom settings attempt to harness these present-day expectations to aid learning with stagnant tools. Online learning Communities are learning tools that have the capability to bridge, transform, and innovate physically and virtually any learning environment. Instructors are encouraged to incorporate forms blended learning and collaboration to assess knowledge and perceptions built by the learners and their online learning environments.
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